Cleaning Dryer Vents

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Cleaning Dryer Vents

Dear NH,
In our new house, the clothes dryer vents into the crawl space. To blow the exhaust through the crawl space window, we have to attach dryer tubing to a PVC pipe that's about 20 feet long, impossible to clean of lint. The previous owners had duct-taped a pair of old pantyhose to the dryer pipe to collect the lint! (I thought it was pretty creative, actually.) Any suggestions?
V from Lexington, KY

Aside from the lint catcher built into your clothes dryer, you should not use any other filtering medium. The panty hose idea might seem practical at first blush, but it would need to be cleaned frequently. Backpressure and the resultant overheating due to blocked ducts is a major cause of clothes dryer-related fires! At the very least, you might scorch your clothes!

Due to the moisture buildup, it is unwise to release dryer exhaust into a crawlspace unless it is well ventilated, so you should vent through the window if there is no other rerouting option for the hose. Unfortunately, dryer manufacturers do not recommend more than 10 feet of hose, which you exceed with a bullet!

Smooth-walled metal pipe or PVC offer the least resistance to air flow, so you can get away with longer lengths than expandable-type hoses provided you don't let too much lint build up in the pipe.

Regarding cleaning lint residue out of the duct, there are special brushes available with long handles. Basically, they are similar to chimney cleaning brushes, but of course in smaller diameters for dryer ducts (usually 4"). These brushes will only work on rigid or semi-rigid ducting, not on lightweight "accordion" hoses. It will rip them to shreds! Though there are professional duct cleaning systems that are gentler, they are also too expensive for occasional use.

To jump-start your shopping, try the RUTLAND PRODUCTS website. RUTLAND manufactures products for chimneys and stoves, but also carries a line of 4" dryer vent brushes. Their products are available in many home and hardware stores.

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